Some developers are using the small print to turn their desktop computer apps into programs for creating crypto currency.
If you've noticed that your computer has become slow or sluggish over recent weeks, that it's overheating and commands are timing out, it could just be that it needs a thorough cleanup, but it could also be that a toolbar extension or other app or plug-in is using your computer's resources for more nefarious means.
Security software firm Malwarebytes has discovered at least one application -- a free Wi-Fi proxy utility -- that is doing just that. It is turning computers into Bitcoin mining machines and the mining is, technically speaking, legal, as the existence of this feature is buried away in the small print of the end user license agreement (EULA).
In fact, the EULA says: "As part of downloading a Mutual Public, your computer may do mathematical calculations for our affiliated networks to confirm transactions and increase security. Any rewards or fees collected by WBT or our affiliates are the sole property of WBT and our affiliates." In other words, by installing the extension, you are agreeing to mine Bitcoin and any profits made go to us.
Bitcoin Mining is the term used to describe the mathematical calculations and other processes required to maintain the crypto currency.
When Bitcoin was first created, computer programmers could earn or 'mint' Bitcoin by performing these tasks on their PCs, essentially giving over their processors to help run the system.
However, as Bitcoin continues to grow, so does the processing power required to create just a fraction of a new 'coin' -- it is now much more than a typical computer can manage, and the increased use of electricity will wipe out any potential profits earned from ownership of a fraction of a Bitcoin.
In order to continue earning Bitcoins and to keep the system running, groups of computers, working together are now needed, resulting in less-than-honest companies looking to hijack as many processors as possible via malware or Potentially Unwanted programs (PUPs) such as this app. And as the real-world value of Bitcoin continues to climb -- it hit $1000 in November -- such hijackings are going to become more widespread.
So, avoid clicking on offers of software or browser extension that appear in advertising around search results and ensure that all virus programs are up to date and running at full speed. Likewise, make sure that the most recent version of an internet browser is installed and that any operating system patches have been downloaded.
As Malwarebytes's Adam Kujawa explains in his blog post: "So take note if your system is running especially slow or if a process is taking up massive amounts of your processing power; it might be malware or even a PUP running a miner on your system."